European politics have been roiled by waves of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa. Many Europeans are deeply concerned that the next wave will be primarily from Africa. But, an African immigration wave might go considerably farther than just Europe. The Associated Press reports that, for the first time, a group of twenty-five African migrants attempted to sail in a catamaran from the West African archipelago of Cape Verde to northeastern Brazil, a distance of just under two thousand miles. The catamaran’s engine failed, the mast broke, and the vessel was adrift for some four weeks until rescued by a Brazilian fishing vessel off the northeastern Brazilian coast. It was the first time a group of migrants had arrived in the Brazilian state of Maranhao. Earlier illegal migrants to the state had been one or two stowaways.
The twenty-five migrants were from Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. According to AP, each passenger paid around $1,180 (€1,000) to make the voyage. The Brazilian authorities have arrested two Brazilians from the vessel on the suspicion that they were smuggling the group.
Smuggling networks between South America and West Africa, especially Guinea, have been steadily developed by narcotics traffickers. They then transship narcotics from West Africa to Europe and North America. Up to now, the smuggling has been from South America to Africa. In the future, these networks may be exploited to move economic migrants in the opposite direction, from Africa to South America. The high price apparently charged by the catamaran operators may be an indication that they were part of an existing smuggling outfit that is now looking for markets beyond narcotics. Brazil has long had close ties with West Africa and may well be an attractive destination for West Africans seeking greater economic opportunity or security.